“I have no creed but Jesus.”
“I don’t hold to (insert theologian’s name here); I hold to the Bible.”

These are popular sentiments among many believers today. They do sound rather pious at first, don’t they? After all, what’s wrong with holding to the Bible alone for guidance and doctrine? As protestants, we claim it’s the divinely inspired and “God-breathed” word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is this very divine inspiration that gives it its authority above all other authorities. So what’s the problem?

Several.

For one, this sentiment ignores the Holy Spirit’s work in the church throughout history. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His disciples “into all the truth” (John 16:13), and that is precisely what He has been doing in and for the Church all along now. From the time of the early church’s battles against heresy, down through the time of the Reformation and up to the present day, the Holy Spirit has been leading and guiding the Church to articulate vital doctrinal truths in order to defend her against dangerous teachings. If we were to ignore this historical theology, we would be dooming ourselves to repeat church history all over again. Like the early church, we would have to deal with a variety of heresies. How would we do that? We would handle it in the same way the early church did: by consulting Scripture in order to formulate the truth over against such heresies. But what sense does it make to ignore all that work that has already been done? Why reinvent the wheel?

To elaborate on this, although these doctrines have certainly come from the Bible, they are presented in the Bible in a seed format, as it were, and accordingly they need to be drawn out and set down thoroughly. This does not mean that the Bible is insufficient; what it does mean, though, is that God uses men in the church to labor in the word and teach and defend the truth.

The fact of the matter is that, though such statements are probably well-meant, those who hold them would have us believe that we don’t need gifted men to teach the Church and labor in the word and doctrine. What is worse, according to this view, we have never needed them. They would have us completely disregard Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Bavinck, and a host of other theologians who were used by the Holy Spirit to guide the Church.

Secondly, the sentiment reflects a warped view of sola scriptura, one that I doubt the Reformers ever had in mind. Sola Scriptura does not exclude the need for teachers in the church; otherwise, the passage about gifting in the church in Eph. 4:11–13 would be invalid and unnecessary. Sola Scriptura does not mean Bible-only, but rather that the Bible is the only infallible rule for Christian faith and practice.

Thirdly, the sentiment is highly unrealistic because those who hold such an anti-theologian view have undoubtedly been shaped and influenced by theologians of one stripe or another. Nobody lives in a vacuum. Their own adherence to creedal formulations of the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, belies this fact.

It is God who gave pastors and teachers to the church. That fact alone requires that we take them seriously. Should we believe everything they teach without confirming it by Scripture? Absolutely not. Then again, we should not ignore them either. We do so at our own risk.

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